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NC State Extension

Top-Performing Annual Bedding Plants

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Dahlia 'Mystic Illusion' Dennis Werner ©

Dahlia ‘Mystic Illusion’
Dennis Werner ©

The JC Raulston Arboretum (JCRA) participates yearly in an evaluation program called the All-America Selections, a nationwide program designed to test and promote new cultivars of annual bedding plants with superior garden performance. The plants are judged in impartial trials.

Among the hundreds of entries at the JCRA this summer, the top group consisted of nine hybrid petunia cultivars. Long after many of the other species succumbed to disease, extreme heat, drought or old age, these petunia hybrids maintained superior vigor and color with countless blooms filling the beds.

Continued hybridization and selection by flower breeders has transformed petunias, yielding a wide range of winning petunia colors and patterns. Top-rated petunia cultivars are Surfinia® ‘Mini-Mini White’, Surfinia® ‘Baby Pink Ice’, Surfinia® ‘White Improved’, Supertunia® ‘Bordeaux’, Supertunia® ‘Vista Fuchsia’, Supertunia® ‘Vista Bubblegum’, Suncatcher® ‘Pink Vein’, ‘Sweet Surprise Lavender’ and Supertunia® ‘Cotton Candy’.

Petunia Superfinia 'Mini-Mini White'Dennis Werner ©

Petunia Superfinia ‘Mini-Mini White’
Dennis Werner ©

Another top performer is Salvia splendens. This tender tropical perennial is native to Brazil and is being cultivated as an annual in the U.S. ‘Red Sparkler’ and ‘Sparkler Purple’ are cultivars that perform well and bloom reliably over an extended period.

Cleome hassleriana is a new compact, thornless cleome. Cultivars ‘Senorita Rosalita’, ‘Spirit Appleblossom’ and ‘Spirit Violeta’ demonstrate extended flowering through much of the summer. Their tolerance to shade or sunny exposure confers added value to this plant for the patio as well as the garden.

Other entries that can provide dramatic accents in the garden are Euphorbia‘Diamond Frost’, providing a mound of tiny white flowers throughout the entire season; Capsicum annuum ‘Black Pearl’ with black foliage and red fruit; Dahlia‘Mystic Illusion’ with dark purple foliage and yellow flowers; and Cyperus papyrus ‘King Tut’, a stunning architectural plant producing 3-foot-long stems with sprays of spike-like foliage at the top.